What are the main elements your business considers when it comes to boosting employee performance? Faster computers? More incentives? Better training?
These factors are of course all worthy of evaluation, but it would be remiss not to consider the physical work environment. Offices have numerous elements that can be optimized for increased employee comfort and wellbeing.
open plan offices: productivity boosting or just distracting?
Businesses are increasingly adopting the open concept office over more enclosed private offices - around 70 percent of offices in the US are open plan. Companies have long believed that this style promotes collaboration and teamwork, while allowing managers to keep an eye on everyone’s activities.
However, a number of studies have revealed that open plan offices are not as conducive to productivity as more private spaces. Research published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that “enclosed private offices clearly outperformed open plan layouts in most aspects of IEQ (Indoor Environmental Quality), particularly in acoustics, privacy and the proxemics issues”.
The research found that the “benefits of enhanced 'ease of interaction' were smaller than the penalties of increased noise level and decreased privacy resulting from open plan office configuration”.
Another study by the UK’s Exeter University found that open plan offices result in a 32 percent fall in employees’ wellbeing and a 15 percent drop in productivity. This means that businesses need to decide whether their priority is collaboration and easier interaction between co-workers or keeping employees’ productivity levels up.
lighting: the importance of color
Tailoring lighting throughout the office building could be an inspired move - literally. The right kind of lighting helps workers get creative by boosting feelings of invigoration and excitement to share ideas, according to architects Stanley Felderman and Nancy Keatinge.
During a lighting trial, researchers at the University of Greenwich have found that workers they put under “blue-enriched light bulbs” said they were “happier, more alert and had less eye strain”.
Cooler blue light lowers levels of melatonin, which our bodies need to fall asleep. The right lighting temperature therefore has the ability to boost performance and productivity, which then has a positive impact on your business’ bottom line.
Meanwhile, warmer light boosts feelings of relaxation and comfort, making it ideal for break rooms and areas where employees can take time out. It can also be used to good effect in meeting rooms where you want your employees to feel welcomed and trusting.
wearable technology: health-boosting opportunities?
In 2016, 202 million wearable devices were given to workers by their employers, according to ABI Research. By 2021, this is expected to rise to 501 million.
Introducing these connected devices will give employees the ability to measure their activity levels, as well as recording their food and water intake. When employees are healthier, they’re more productive. A study by the University of California, Riverside, UCLA, and Washington University in St Louis found that employees taking part in wellness programs were five percent more productive.
Fitness trackers can also monitor employees’ heart rates, which can give companies an insight into whether large numbers of workers might be getting ill - something that can have an impact on a department’s performance.
Companies can also use this data to provide more tailored - and often cheaper - health plans for employees. HR teams will be able to work with employees to design unique plans that consider an individual’s specific health risks and requirements.